Category Archives: Articles

Sogdian Christianity

A Sogdian silk brocade textile fragment, dated c. 700 AD

Ashurov, Barakatullo. 2018. ‘Sogdian Christianity’: Evidence from architecture and material culture. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 1–42.

This article aims to discuss the question of the inculturation of Syriac Christianity in Central Asia, based on archaeological examples including architectural evidence from a particular ethnocultural area: Sogdiana. It questions to what extent the Eastern Syriac Church has become rooted in local culture, thus enabling Christian communities to express their faith in both material and artistic ways. This article is divided into two sections which present a comprehensive study of the medieval sources relevant to the spread and establishment of Christianity in the Central Asian landmass by considering and analyzing existing tangible evidence. In doing so, it provides assessment of comparable evidence, which demonstrates both the “extended” and an “immediate” context in which Eastern Syriac Christianity was accepted, adapted and transformed into a localised expression of Christian faith.

The Problem of Respect in Sasanid-Roman Relations

Maksymiuk, Katarzyna. 2018.The two eyes of the earth: The problem of respect in Sasanid-Roman relations. Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 58, 591–606.

The diplomatic exchanges of the two powers need not express mutual respect, as the language and the rituals used by one side need not have been interpreted by the other as intended.

Iran, the Silk Road and Political Economy in Late Antiquity

Payne, Richard. 2018. The Silk Road and the Iranian political economy in late antiquity: Iran, the Silk Road, and the problem of aristocratic empire. Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 81(2). 227–250.

The Iranian Empire emerged in the third century in the interstices of the Silk Road that increasingly linked the markets of the Mediterranean and the Near East with South, Central, and East Asia. The ensuing four centuries of Iranian rule corresponded with the heyday of trans-Eurasian trade, as the demand of moneyed imperial elites across the continent for one another’s high-value commodities stimulated the development of long-distance networks. Despite its position at the nexus of trans-continental and trans-oceanic commerce, accounts of Iran in late antiquity relegate trade to a marginal role in its political economy. The present article seeks to foreground the contribution of trans-continental mercantile networks to the formation of Iran and to argue that its development depended as much on the political economies of its western and eastern neighbours as on internal Near Eastern factors.

Also available from the author’s Academia page.

Achaemenid Sources and the Problem of Genre

Silverman, Jason M. 2018. Achaemenid sources and the problem of genre. In Sebastian Fink & Robert Rollinger (eds.), Conceptualizing Past, Present, and Future. (Melammu Symposia 9), 261-278, Münster: Ugarit-Verlag.

The present paper discusses the import of genre decisions for the assessment of historical sources for the Achaemenid Empire. It argues the medium must be included within genre considerations, and that genre is more than a literary artifact, but carries important historical and sociological implications.

Polemical Aspects in an Early Judeo-Persian Bible Exegesis

Haim, Ofir. 2018. Polemical Aspects in an Early Judeo-Persian Bible Exegesis: The Commentary on the Story of  Ḥannah (RNL Yevr.-Arab. I 4608). Entangled  Religions 6(Special Issue: Historical Engagements and Interreligious Encounters-Jews and Christians in Premodern and Early Modern Asia and Africa). 163–200.
The article discusses the attitude towards Christians, Muslims, and the “foreign sciences” based on one of the only extant polemical texts written in Early Judeo-Persian—a passage from an unpublished commentary on story of Ḥannah preserved in the National Library of Russia (RNL Yevr.-Arab. I 4608). In addition, the article attempts to define the relation of this commentary to the broader intellectual environment of the medieval Jewish world. A close examination of this passage reveals a possible connection to Karaite exegetical work written in Judeo-Arabic during the tenth century, particularly those of Yefet ben ʿEli. Therefore, the article may serve as a case study of intellectual contact and transmission of knowledge between different Jewish groups in the Islamicate world.

The representation of Persepolis in the Iranian press of the 1930s

West stairs, Palace of Xerxes at Persepolis, excavation photograph, 1930s. Courtesy of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago

Devos, Bianca. 2018. “History is repeated”: The representation of Persepolis in the Iranian press of the 1930s. Die Welt des Islams 58(3). 326–356.

From spring 1931 to autumn 1939, the University of Chicago`s Oriental Institute con-ducted the first scientific excavations at Persepolis. The excavations coincided with a decade of profound change in Iran’s state and society. Under the rule of Reżā Shāh (1925- 1941), the Iranian state implemented a comprehensive nationalist and modernist reform agenda and propagated a distinctive national Identity. The press played a crucial role in this process, informing the public about the excavations at Persepolis, a site that is highly significant for the nanative of the nation’s past. This article traces how Eṭṭelāʿāt, a leading Tehran newspaper, covered Persepolis and the archeological excavations there. The aim in doing so is to illustrate how the Iranian press developed during the 1930s, a period during which the press was commercialized and professionalized and experienced increasing interference nom the state’s censors.

Revisiting the Location of Pṛga in the Behistun Inscription

Doroodi, Mojtaba & Farrokh Hajiani. 2018. Revisiting the location of Pṛga in the Behistun inscription on the basis of its etymology and an examination of historico-geographical texts. The Journal of Indo-European Studies 46 (3-4), 265–289.

A multitude of geographical names are referred to in the Behistun Inscription. Despite the fact that scholars have put considerable effort in locating the current sites of many of these places, there is a shroud of mystery hanging over some. A mountain called Parga, the battlefield of King Darius with Vahyazdāta, is one of them. Some researchers have identified it with Forg District which seems to be an erroneous assumption. This study, while convincingly refuting the aforementioned assumption, tries to propound and prove a new idea as regards the whereabouts of Prga. In reaching this goal, the authors have benefited from etymological and historical evidence and have examined the original inscription in Old Persian, Elamite, Babylonian, and Aramaic. The results of this study indicate that what is now called Shahrak-e Abarj in the Marvdasht Plain could be the real location of Prga referred to in the Behistun Inscription.

Reverence for Water Among the Zoroastrians

The Yasna ceremony of consecration. Parzor Archives

Cama, Shernaz. 2019. Ava: A living tradition of reverence for water among the Zoroastrians. In Sara Keller (ed.), Knowledge and the Indian Ocean. Intangible networks of Western India and beyond, 65–85. Cham: Springer Verlag.

Asia, particularly India, needs water conservation today in every form, to support an ever-growing population and its thirst for water, may it be for drinking, for agricultural purpose or other types of development and improvement in standards of living. The area surrounding Gujarat has always supported valuable contributions, across land and ocean in varied fields. It has also supported across history, positive migrations both for trade and for shelter. The Zoroastrian refugees brought their cultural and religious concern for water to the western coast of India, contributing to a multicultural ethos, which took the best from every part and absorbed it into a new living culture. The tanka system, an offshoot of the Iranian karez contributed in the past, and continues to contribute today. Such multicultural sharing of oral traditions of an ancient society can therefore bring new perspectives and hopefully participate to the ecological understanding and the careful use of water resources in the future, not only in Gujarat but across India.

The Worst Revolt of the Bisitun Crisis

Wijnsma, Uzume. 2018. The worst revolt of the Bisitun crisis: A chronological reconstruction of the Egyptian revolt under Petubastis IVJournal of Near Eastern Studies 77 (2), 157–173.

Kujula Kadphises and his title Kushan Yavuga

Cribb, Joe. 2018. Kujula Kadphises and his title Kushan Yavuga (Sino-Platonic Papers 280). Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania.

This paper sets out to examine the use of the term in the Chinese chronicles of the period of the Kushan xihou and in coin and stone inscriptions of Kujula Kadphises to illustrate the function of this title for him and interrogate the contextual evidence from these sources for the meaning of this title and its likely origins.